Poetry: “Acceptable Risk” by Tara Campbell

Poetry: Tara Campbell

“Acceptable Risk” is a response to the “no-knock” police raid in Louisville on March 13 that ended in the shooting death of 26-year-old African-American EMT Breonna Taylor.

Police say they knocked and identified themselves, but Walker and other witnesses in the building say they did not.

The officers were not using body cameras. As reported in the Courier-Journal, Taylor had no criminal history, and no drugs were found in her apartment.

For anyone interested in a way to respond, more information can be found here.

Acceptable Risk

As an American
I want to protect my guns
to protect my family
I’ll be the one to decide
who gets gunned down,
at least at home
if not the kids’ school,
or at work
or the movies;
the world is uncertain,
it comes at you fast
in a parking lot
or at the mall
or anywhere, really,
except for at home
where I get to decide.

It’s safer at home
with a gun
unless (some people say) you’re a wife
or intimate partner,
a child, or in crisis,
or anyone else who
(if you believe
what those people say)
is at greater risk
from a gun in the house
than from outside intruders
like the ones
that poor girl’s boyfriend thought
broke into their home that night.

If only he’d woken up sooner,
seen the officers’ uniforms
through the front door,

had figured out what they’d come for
(which they didn’t find)
and anyway,
how could they have known
that when he opened fire
he was just aiming for the intruders
that guns were made for?

At one in the morning,
how could they have known
that their bullets were striking
a woman asleep in her bed,
an EMT, a future nurse
who would have saved them
if someone had shattered their bodies
like they shattered hers?

I mean, once they’d made up their minds,
how could they have imagined,
that she might be anything more
than a suspect
lurking behind the door?
And I ask you:
with so many guns out there,
if she didn’t know
when they were coming
or who they were
or why they were there
how could the officers
possibly have felt safe?

I can only imagine
what they must have thought
when all they found
at that pre-dawn scene
was an innocent corpse,
a traumatized partner,
spent casings cooling on the floor;
and I have no idea
which words would be fitting
what terms we should use
for something like this:
Acceptable risk?
Collateral damage?
Regrettable loss of life?

I’m no good with words
so I’ll just say this:
as an American
I’ll keep protecting my guns.
It’s safer the way it is,
as long as it’s only the others
who keep stealing
the headlines.

Tara Campbell (taracampbell.com) is a writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, and fiction editor at Barrelhouse. Prior publication credits include SmokeLong Quarterly, Masters Review, Monkeybicycle, Jellyfish Review, Booth, and Strange Horizons. She’s the author of a novel, TreeVolution, a hybrid fiction/poetry collection, Circe’s Bicycle, and a short story collection, Midnight at the Organporium, which received a starred review in Publishers Weekly. She received her MFA from American University in 2019.

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